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Preview: Suns try to beat Clippers, avoid winless month

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The Phoenix Suns, 0-12 in March, have only the Clippers and the red-hot Rockets left to play this month, and could finish with first 0-fer month in 50 years of existence.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What: Phoenix Suns host Los Angeles Clippers

When: 7:00 PM AZ Time

Where: Phoenix, Arizona at Talking Stick Resort Arena

Watch: Fox Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7 FM


For the second month in a row, the Phoenix Suns find themselves on the precipice of leaving an awful black mark on their franchise history that will be remembered and referenced for the next 50 years.

Unless the Suns find a way to beat the Clippers tonight or the soaring Rockets on Friday, they will record their first winless full month of basketball in 50 seasons.

Last month, they narrowly avoided this dishonor by beating the equally bad Memphis Grizzlies on the last day of February. This time, there’s no such luck. The Clippers are fighting for their playoff lives, and the Rockets are just too good to lose to the undermanned Suns.

Clippers update

The Clippers have stayed in the Western Conference playoff race by going 15-10 since trading Blake Griffin to the Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and a first round pick. Bradley has mostly been hurt and Boban barely plays, but Harris has been a very good player since being acquired on January 29. This after barely topping a .500 record WITH Griffin.

Tobias Harris is the Clippers #2 scoring option behind sweet Lou Williams in a more-balanced offensive attack since Griffin left town. The Clips have 6 players averaging double figures in scoring over the last 10 games, though Milos Teodosic suffered a sore foot (plantar fasciitis) and left the game last night against the Bucks.

Speaking of the Bucks, WE OWE A BIG THANK YOU to the Clippers for beating the Bucks twice in the past week, keeping alive the Suns’ hopes of getting the Bucks’ first round pick this year out of that Bledsoe trade. Today, there’s a 94% chance the Suns will get the 15th or 16th pick in the 2018 Draft, according to basketball-reference.com projected draft order.

Wouldn’t it be vicious if the Suns did a video tribute to the Clippers for those wins over the Bucks?

I digress.

Overall, the Clippers have won 3 of 4 and are 1.5 games out of the 8th playoff spot with a 40-34 record. They really need this win over the hapless Suns to keep their playoff hopes alive. So don’t expect them to take their foot off the gas at any point.

Clippers leaders:

  • Leading scorer: Lou Williams, 22.8
  • Leading rebounder: DeAndre Jordan, 15.4
  • Leading assists: Lou Williams, 5.4

Probable starting lineup: Harris, Williams, Jordan, Wesley Johnson (yes, THAT Smilin Wes), Austin Rivers

Hurt: Danilo Gallinari (hand, fracture), Milos Teodosic (foot, fasciitis), Avery Bradley (private region, surgery), Patrick Beverly (knee, microfracture surgery)

Suns update

Even while every game is a replay of the last one for the league’s worst team, there’s always an update, you know?

The Suns are still missing their two best players and their most playable long-toothed veteran, but finally have their spiritual leader (Alan Williams) back in the lineup while Tyler Ulis has found his mojo again.

Ulis has had three straight games of 11+ points and twice has tallied 8+ assists in two of those games. Considering the rest of his season, this is a major breakthrough. He cites his health finally returning (ankle early in the season, then back issues midseason), and I don’t doubt that at all. But let’s also not forget it’s easier for the league’s smallest player to be effective when the other team is already up by 20 and trying to rest their veterans so they aren’t bothering to blow him up on 30 screens a night.

Still, I love me some Ulis and can’t help but be excited about his return.

Big Sauce is back too, with his burly rebounding and patented kick-back one-handed floaters in the lane on pick and rolls. Ulis loves his Sauce, so they might shine over these last few weeks of the season. You might remember Ulis won Rookie of the Month last April and had a 34/9/9 game in there.

Elsewhere along the Suns’ lineup, Elfrid Payton is residing firmly in the doghouse for playing like he belongs there permanently. His permanent hangdog look reminds me of the depressed Brandon Knight after he was acquired in 2015. Payton might be depressed looking at his likely NBA future as a journeyman rather than star.

Rookie Josh Jackson has emerged as the Suns top player, doing a little of everything for the struggling Suns.

Spotlight on Marquese Chriss: Look who rose from the ashes the last few games! Dragan Bender handed off the “show promise in second year” ring to Quese lately, and he’s responded well. He’s had 10+ points and 4+ rebounds in 5 consecutive games, the last three as a starter.

Suns over last 10 games, including only those players likely to play tonight:

  • Leading scorer: Josh Jackson, 17.1
  • Leading rebounder: Josh Jackson, 5.7 (see the Hurt pile)
  • Leading assists: Tyler Ulis, 4.6

Probable starting lineup: Jackson, Ulis/Payton, Troy Daniels, Chriss and Bender

Hurt: Alex Len (ankle, day-to-day), Tyson Chandler (back, day-to-day), Devin Booker (hand, day-to-day), T.J. Warren (knee, day-to-day), Brandon Knight (knee, always)

Prediction

Looks like another loss on the horizon. The Clippers just NEED this win badly to stay in the playoff race. A loss would leave the Suns 0-13 in March with only the Rockets in their way to an 0-14 month.

But hey, at least the draft is looking good!